Author: Seth Ellingson

Zootefest plans driven to extinction

After Student Government Association SGA leadership announced the cancellation of Lutefest last month, Max Collyard ’13 began planning a spring music festival to take its place. But plans for Zootefest, as the event was dubbed, fell through last week after the Northfield City Council told Collyard he had missed the deadline to apply for a permit.

On Thursday, March 14, SGA President Catherine Haines ’13 and Vice President Matt Alveshere ’13 sent an email to the student body, announcing that “as a result of consistently unsuccessful attempts” to “make Lutefest a fun and risk-free event,” Lutefest would be canceled after a nine-year run.

Like many students, Collyard was disappointed to hear of the cancellation. But unlike most of his peers, he immediately began forming plans for an independently-funded event. Collyard originally envisioned Zootefest asa small, private get-together with live music.

“I had been thinking about Lutefest because there were rumors it would be canceled,” said Collyard, “and I wanted to have a little party with me and 300 other people.”

But after he began to advertise the event on social media, the scope of Zootefest grew rapidly. Collyard created a Facebook event entitled “Zootefest, or the fest formerly known as Lutefest,” and within five days of its creation, the event had over 300 guests RSVP as “attending.” Student interest soared, and Collyard, with the help of Tommy Cullen ’13, Tucker McGownd ’14 and Anna Carlson ’13, set out to make a bigger and better event.

In an interview, Collyard said that he began by contacting members of the Northfield City Council, park managers, lawyers and security consultants as he attempted to build the event.He spoke with individuals involved in the planning of Jesse James Days in Northfield to learn about resources available for large crowds. They suggested the rodeo grounds, as various other parks were reserved around that time.

Through these efforts, Zootefest began to take shape. Collyard decided on the rodeo grounds off of Highway 19 as the location for the festival, and he elected to sell students tickets in order to pay for supplies and personnel.

Zootefest was planned for Saturday, May 4, and on Monday, April 15, Collyard began selling tickets for $10. According to Collyard, as the potential event’s popularity grew, school administrators contacted Collyard with concerns about liability issues, regulations and student safety.

“I think the administration has an influence on what the City Councildecides,” Collyard said. “Greg Kneser warned me that he had notified the chief of police about the upcoming event. They could shut it down if St. Olaf doesn’t want it.” Due to the increased size of the event, Zootefest also needed approval from the Northfield

City Council. Soon, morethan 800 students had RSVP’d as “attending” Collyard’s Facebook event. By April 20, 500 of them had purchased tickets from Collyard, paying in cash or online through a PayPal account he set up for the festival.

The use of social media caused an explosion of interest not only among Oles, but also throughout Northfield. Collyard and Ned Netzel ’13 uploaded YouTube videos to keep students informed about the event. This engagement, coupled with overwhelming student interest, kept the idea of the potential festival alive.

The prospective music lineup, compiled by Netzel, reflected a variety of styles and featured a mix of St. Olaf, Carleton and Northfield bands. Campus Band Coordinator Sam Benson ’15 expressed support for Collyard’s and Netzel’s efforts.

“One of the big things that Zootefest really offered was the potential to demonstrate to the administration that a large festival like Lutefest or Zootefest or whatever could actually be about the music and not just about the drinking or partying,” Benson said.

“I’m doing this because I feel like it will benefit the students and ultimately create a much healthier environment for things like this to take place,” said Collyard, echoing Benson’s sentiments.

Collyard regularly communicated via email with students who had purchased tickets to Zootefest, keeping them updated on his efforts and reminding them that nothing would be set in stone until the festival received approval from the Northfield City Council.

Collyard attended a Northfield City Council work session on Tuesday, April 23. He was informed that, as council members do not vote at work sessions, he would have to present his proposal at the next official meeting, scheduled for Tuesday, May 7 – after the tentative date of Zootefest would have passed.

In a video posted on YouTube and Facebook later that night, Collyard asked those who had purchased tickets to Zootefest what they wanted his next step to be. Through an online survey, Collyard asked whether students wanted their money refunded, donated to charity or put toward a possible future Zootefest, to be held at a later date.

Students were split over how to use the $5,000 in ticket sales. Some wanted to donate the money to charity, while others voted for T-shirts or refunds. However, 80 percent of students still wanted some sort of event, so Collyard continued to attempt to make Zootefest a reality. He called City Hall on Wednesday, April 24, and, later that evening, a councilperson contacted him via phone and told him that in order to receive a permit for a public event, he would have had to apply at least 45 days prior to the event day.

After that phone call, Collyard suspended ticket sales. In the days following, Collyard offered refunds to those who wanted them, as well as the opportunity for students to donate the money from their ticket sales to charity. Despite the disappointment, Collyard is hopeful that Zootefest could still happen next year.

“I’m going to make sure that it does,” Collyard said. “I have talked to several sophomores and juniors to carry the torch, and I will be there to make things happen electronically. It was an issue of time. The city takes much more time to put things together.”

St. Olaf has had a history of various spring festivals that have come and gone. Before the genesis of Lutefest, the annual spring festival, Arbstock, was a festival co-sponsored by St. Olaf and Carleton College and hosted in the Carleton arboretum. In 2003, however, citing legal and liability issues, St. Olaf withdrew its funding for the event.

After withdrawing its support, St. Olaf used the money it had placed in Arbstock to continue the tradition of a spring music festival. The event, originally named the St. Olaf Outdoor Spring Blues Festival, was later coined Lutefest.

Though Arbstock and Lutefest are things of the past, and the college will be without a campus music festival this spring, Collyard is confident that Zootefest still belongs in St. Olaf’s future.

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Proposed SGA Constitution changes put to the vote

Matt and Kim wows crowd at spring concert

“A sweaty dance party – a good time vibe.” In the words of Matt Johnson of Matt and Kim, this is the best way to describe their show. Matt and Kim put on some of the best shows in human experience. They hail from Brooklyn and use catchy synth riffs and simple drum beats to create what many have deemed “quintessential party music.” Over the years, they perfected the art of turning an otherwise lifeless mass of people into a stunning orchestra of hefty pop-punk fury. When Matt and Kim play a concert, it’s more than just a concert, it’s an experience for all of the senses.

After an hour delay due to flight complications, Strange Names, a pop-rock Minneapolis-based group, started the show off right by getting the crowd into a dancing mood. Strange Names brought a more complete sound to fill in some of the gaps left by Matt and Kim’s bare-bones instrumentation. For example, Strange Names gave the crowd their recommended daily dose of bass, lest they starve during the main act.

Coming on stage, Matt introduced Kim as his, “partner in crime and partner in the bedroom.” Besides sex appeal, Matt and Kim shows have certain characteristics that veterans will remember and newcomers will crave. They started off their set with their tried-and-true classic, “Block after Block.” Using a combination of old and new songs, Matt and Kim proceeded to rock the sweaty wool socks off every Ole in the audience. They kept their set accessible to newcomers with “Yeah Yeah Yeah” there was no way you couldn’t sing the chorus from their first album, while still hitting their newer songs, such as “Now” and “Let’s Go.”

Throughout the show, I got the impression of how genuinely happy they are to be playing. Despite the fact that their instruments practically require them to be seated, they do not sit still. Each time Kim hopped on top of her bass drum, the crowd went wild. Chaining Matt to his keyboard wouldn’t keep him from jumping out to high five crowd members between songs. It is obvious they try to make their shows a feel-good time.

Apart from being masters at putting on a show, they include iconic events that every veteran has come to love. Their most famous move is Kim walking out onto the crowd to dance. Kim, who was in boots, waded out on top of the crowds hands, perhaps a metaphor for fan support, to teach the crowd how to dance.

No party would be complete without balloons and confetti, which were both released. Who knew that balloons could entertain college students for so long? While Matt sang about lessons learned, the crowd learned the hard way that confetti is a choking hazard and, in a sweaty dance party, sticks like glue. Between songs, Matt transitioned with a tight mix of rap music reminiscent of Girltalk. These transitions included heartbreak classic, “Just a Friend”, and their newest addition to their shows, the “Harlem Shake.”

While onstage, Matt and Kim exude a certain chemistry, not only in their back-and-forths, but also in their interactions with the crowd. After a whirlwind tour featuring “Good ‘Ol Fashion Nightmare,” “Lessons Learned” and “Now” my favorite, they finally reached the end to their zesty, sexy show. They closed out their set with a song that most of the crowd knew, “Daylight.”

Their music and their shows are something you can turn to for a pick-me-up in any mood. The energy and affection they give the audience makes you feel like they wholly appreciate the crowd and love being there.

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Proposed SGA Constitution changes put to the vote

Raise minimum wage, slash executive pay

It is official: The land of chocolates, pocket knives, watches and tax havens has passed a referendum limiting executive pay. The initiative passed after Swiss pharmaceutical maker Novartis revealed plans to pay outgoing chairman Daniel Vasella $78 million. Corporate backlash was immediate. Nestle’s CEO immediately denounced Switzerland, claiming that its businesses will no longer bring jobs to Switzerland. Yet, despite the condemnation, the European Parliament passed a similar measure to limit executive pay. Switzerland is now no longer the cold, rocky haven in Europe where CEOs can hide from the righteous hand of equality. This marks a turning point in the social justice not just of Europe, but of the world.

We all remember the banking crisis of 2008. What we may not remember, however, is that the hasty bailout enabled banking executives to walk away from a mess they created with millions in bonuses. All of this happened while the Average Joe applied for food stamps, unemployment insurance and other social programs that allowed him a scrap of dignity.

Currently, America has a higher rate of wealth inequality than any other developed nation. We have a higher disparity than Russia, Iran, Pakistan, the Ivory Coast and most of the rest of the world. Over the past 30 years, executive pay has increased 127 times faster than the average worker’s pay. The average income for the bottom 90 percent of Americans is $31,244 per year. The last time America saw a similar economic injustice was during a time period properly called “The Gilded Age” in the early 20th century. We have now entered into a “New Gilded Age” where the rich have the government on a leash. The only real question is: Where is our Teddy Roosevelt?

Teddy Roosevelt called for vigorous government intervention to destroy the invisible, unholy alliance between corrupt businesses and corrupt politics. We need a new generation of legislators to take up this noble cause.

Curtailing executive pay is just the start of the measures the United States must enact immediately in order to prevent our democracy from slipping farther into a plutocracy.

First, the minimum wage must be raised. President Obama’s challenge to Congress to raise the federal minimum wage to $9 is cute. However, Australia touts a $17 minimum wage: The U.S. should raise its minimum wage to $15, at least. This would put money back into the hands of Americans who can then buy goods and services, creating a functioning economy instead of the gluttonous credit monstrosity of today. Opponents of an increase like to point out that there is no evidence that increasing the minimum wage amounts to a stimulus. I would argue that there is no evidence that cutting taxes for the wealthiest Americans amounts to stimulus or how deregulating banks stimulates the economy. Then there are the more far-fetched arguments that well-paid employees won’t work as hard.

Another measure the U.S. should enact is to establish a maximum wage for the highest earners, which includes hiking the capital gains tax. Now that Switzerland and the rest of Europe are eliminating their tax havens, where will U.S. executives go to be tax exiles?

America has seen this before. In the first decades of the 20th century, America had a widening gap in wealth equality. Our cities were festering, and the rich were capturing more wealth and power. Still, America did not have a revolution; we did not turn to socialism, fascism or communism. Instead, we reformed. We instituted a progressive income tax, initiated unemployment insurance, busted up the big trusts and regulated corporations. That’s what the Progressive Era was about: embracing reform. Even today, most people would agree that these measures were not extreme and did not negatively affect the economy. That is what America needs today: not socialism, but reform.

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Proposed SGA Constitution changes put to the vote

Jon Marks lectures on humanity

Each year, the Science Conversation brings one speaker to campus to lecture on texts or ideas included in the program and to engage students in lively and meaningful discussion.

Professor of anthropology at University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, Jon Marks did just that in a public lecture he gave on Tuesday, March 12. Marks is author of the books “What It Means To Be 98% Chimpanzee,” which explores our perception of science, and “Why I Am Not A Scientist,” which approaches science through an anthropological lens.

His speech, entitled “Human Exceptionalism,” focused on how evolution is biocultural, not biological, thus distinguishing humans from other primates.

Marks focused mainly on biological anthropology. He said that, while humans are biological, they are also cultural, something people cannot forget when diving into the depths of science. Marks sought to answer the question: “Where is the merit behind being 98 percent chimpanzee?”

According to Marks, one of the tragedies of modern science is that evolutionists will say anything at all, often employing rhetorical devices, to score debating points against creationists. In this way, creationists control the scientific agenda.

Darwin’s theory hinges upon “descent with modification.” By pointing out that humans are essentially apes, evolutionists neglect the “modification” part of evolution. Marks compared this to the statement, “your ancestors were peasants; therefore, you are a peasant,” pointing out that human evolution is biocultural.

Marks proceeded to sum up his three main points: that science is highly cultural, that culture is an ultimate cause of humanity and that culture is a proximate cause of humanity.

Marks also examined the dichotomy between nature and culture, explaining that nature is something innate, while culture is something that is learned. For example, language use and walking upright are both characteristics unique to humans.

Human brains are hardwired to learn language and humans differ from their ape ancestors in being able to walk upright. Yet, both of these traits must be taught. In this sense, learning and nature work synergistically.

In another example, Marks cited childbirth and the unique trait of humans to give birth with someone else present. This, he argued, is cooperative breeding that evolved in response to human biological problems, such as difficulty with childbirth.

Marks kept the audience engaged with frequent jokes, references and discussion of relevant questions. He said that he himself found the audience “very engaged” and that audience members had “great questions.”

Marks also commented on the Science Conversation program, calling it “an intimate opportunity to discuss important issues in regards to science.” One of the focuses of the Science Conversation is an interdisciplinary aspect, which Marks viewed as integral, stressing the need to “rethink domains of what scholarship is.”

The Science Conversation lecture not only reflected this year’s academic theme, but a larger idea of interdisciplinary work at St. Olaf. Marks highlighted the contributions the Science Conversation gives to the St. Olaf community.

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Proposed SGA Constitution changes put to the vote

Tuition increase remains inevitable

College cuts costs, students’ fees rise by nearly 3 percent

Last week, in an email to the entire student body, President David Anderson ’74 announced a 2.69 percent increase in next year’s comprehensive fee.

This increase will be the smallest in 40 years. However, the national average increase for college tuition is 5.4 percent.

Several forces drove this increase and the administration managed to keep the rising cost well below the national average of other private colleges.

The Obama Administration has crusaded for affordability in higher education by expanding grant aid and college tax credits.

In President Obama’s most recent State of the Union address, he said that there is a “shared responsibility by federal government, states, colleges and universities to promote access and affordability in higher education by reining in college costs, providing value and preparing students with a solid education.”

Currently, the federal government awards about $178 billion in grants and other subsidies to open access to higher education.

Provost and Dean of the College Marci Sortor said that the main driving forces behind the increase are inflation, health care costs and energy.

The college maintains a strong commitment to those who support and teach in the St. Olaf community. Therefore, increasing health costs will increase the overall cost of tuition.

The cost of energy, cooling, heating and lighting of campus can spike. Additionally, licenses, subscriptions to journals and databases, technologies and the cost of off-campus study programs can rise above the overall inflation rate.

To keep costs low, the college employs a mix of strategies. Sortor explained, “We try to increase revenues. In the academic area we apply for government and foundation grants, offer summer school and camps and reachout to donors who want to support students through scholarships or contributions to the academic program.”

Each year, the college re-examines programs to see the correlation with current goals in providing a first-rate education.

This next year will approach the budget with the inclusion of cost-saving measures in printing and food.

Sortor explained three broad reasons for increasing tuition: external forces, student need and rising expectations.

External forces include government regulations, reporting, compliance and other necessary measures that do not pertain to fulfilling St. Olaf’s mission.

Student need pertains, in part, to academic necessities and can include new classes or increased resources. High and rising expectations is straightforward: The college is devoted to providing a world-class education to its students.

New programs, such as the new Arabic and Italian alternate language courses, provide additional opportunities for students.

College costs increase every year and are as certain as death and taxes. But St. Olaf works as hard as it can to give students the best return on their investment possible, as evidenced by the lower tuition increase relative to its peer colleges.

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Proposed SGA Constitution changes put to the vote